November 2012 in Toronto there was an OIPRD conference on police complaints that put forward the Provincial Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (PAVIS), the new model of policing. In response to this, KW Occupy, The Spot Collective, and Basics Community News Service interviewed 70 people from the East end and downtown of Kitchener to come up with our own understanding of policing and the PAVIS model.
Experience With Police
Several people mentioned good experiences with officers who have been kind and sympathetic, but this seemed to be the exception and more due to with the individual officers and not systematic policing practices. The most common experiences people had with police were being stopped and searched without being placed under arrest, being asked for their ID, being questioned without counsel present, or even before they have had their Rights read. Other less prevalent but still common experiences were the use of excessive force in arrests, being arrested on charges that are later dropped, having to stay in jail because of lack of bail, being targeted and pressured into giving information on friends or “people of interest”, and being denied basic rights while in custody.
Those who were targeted tended to be homeless people, marginalized communities and racial groups. Political activists are also targeted, especially if they belong to or are organizing one of those groups. There was heavy police presence in the downtown core, East end, Paulander etc.; places where there is higher unemployment, poverty, and immigration.
Increase of Police Violence
More and more police have been used to deal with people with mental health issues. Since they are not mental health workers and lack the training to do so this leads to escalations of violence. Police have also been increasing their use of force toward people whom they perceive as “troublemakers and undesirables” and those considered guilty by association such as friends or family.
Most dangerous is violence by proxy. For example, a native activist was arrested in plain sight, only to be released, given a business card, and told to contact the police with information on another activist, making it look to bystanders as if he was an informant. In another incident, police told activists and gang members that an article written about an informant was about them, leaving the writer open to violence. Police have also played gang members off each other, particularly by giving false information
Police Presence at Community Centers
More and more police are present in community centres and public spaces. Groups that receive public money are “encouraged” to be police friendly. Police in these spaces have asked about other activists, street people and minorities. While some see this as the police being nice, others are worried that police are using this as a way to gather information and intimidate. For example, during the conduction of several interviews for this report, police made their presence known. Another example is that CSIS, an intelligence agency, has advertised to recruit in an immigrant community space. Questions that police ask people when they “chat them up” are also revealing. By asking how is so and so doing, people feel that police are quietly building their friendship maps and keeping tabs on people.
There are less panhandlers downtown, but this has nothing to do with an improved economy. Instead, intensified police presence downtown has focused on the removal of undesirables to make it “more comfortable” for the economic group they are trying to attract. Businesses are quick to refuse service to those not “dressed nice enough”, even if they have money, and use police to remove them by force. Furthermore, people have noticed an increase in ticketing people of lower income as a deterrent for them to be downtown.
Generally speaking, people feel that the police have the final say. Even when the court gives a verdict of not guilty, it does nothing to make up for the time spent in jail. People felt the police complaints process was useless, and of those interviewed, not one has had a complaint successfully resolved. Some felt that protests and the CopWatch program were one way of holding police accountable.
Police and Politics
The people saw the police as a political organization. Those interviewed felt that the police’s effect on grassroots politics is negative; activists were being arrested on charges later dropped, police are infiltrating activist groups and using informants to gather information on political meetings, activists and protests. Some felt that attending demonstrations made them targets, especially if they come from a poor or working class background or were racialized.
Tactics at Protests
Heavier police presence was noted at protests. People had their pictures taken and observed retaliation for attending such as getting picked up later on charges, being followed, or getting “jacked”. People have been told not to attend protests and felt intimidated from openly participating in political activity afterwards, especially if they came from a marginalized background. More interesting are the bail conditions those arrested have faced – they cannot associate with political people or legal democratic political groups, attend demonstrations, etc.
It is obvious to those interviewed that these conditions are aimed at stopping people from participating in political activity and has nothing to do with law and order. People have seen an increase in police attempts to recruit informers, infiltrate political organizations etc.
by Kevin Rashid Johnson, February 2013
Things I Don’t Do
Even before I began my political journey in 2001, I maintained certain principles; a variety of things I just don’t do. And usually, if ever I deviated from those principles, even in error, I’d end up in a tangle of trouble.
February 2013 was an ordeal. I broke some of my rules and things got ugly. What happened is yet another experience that those who blindly trust the system, and those who don’t, need to know about.
Among my longstanding “don’t dos” are 1) I don’t do suicide and 2) I don’t do intoxicants. Suicide’s a no-brainer. Since I couldn’t fathom caving in to pressure – especially not from the opposition. Which is the only way I could see taking myself out. But more important is the political principle that my life is not mine’s to take. It belongs to the people. And that’s not to posture nor sound “politically correct.” It’s a genuine commitment. The intoxicant thing is a bit more complicated. For one, I don’t like not being in control of myself. Secondly, when under the influence I go soft in the head, being what some call “chemically imbalanced,” or in other words, I literally go berzerk when intoxicated. And since I don’t use, it doesn’t take much to tip me completely over.
Meet Mr. Highjinks
My troubles of February 2013 were the result of breaking these two particular “don’t dos.” Over a three day period I got intoxicated, then, under the influence, attempted suicide – twice. And the pigs and “professionals” quite blatantly watched and waited for me to die, which compelled me, once I sobered up, into yet another life and death struggle to not let that happen.
The intoxication wasn’t intentional (on my part), but the practical joke I might say of an apolitical and particularly mischievous peer. A fella who routinely makes and takes cocktails of various mind-altering prescription drugs he collects. Although he has consented to being identified by name, being remorseful and willing to confess his role in the ordeal his shenanigans caused, I’ll just call him Mr. Highjinks (for obvious reasons).
For some time he’d tried to convince me to pop some pills with him. Wanting to share his and many others’ method of escaping the maddening tedium of solitary confinement. I declined of course. But he kept at it, trying all sorts of enticements. To no avail. But what I didn’t realize was how determined he really was to get me pickled. Nor that he’d use devious methods to do it.
Mr. Highjinks Spikes the Spread
To give a bit of diversity to the otherwise bland prison diets, prisoners – when we can afford it – sometimes make homemade pizza-like or casserole concoctions by combining foods purchased from the prison commissary and foods taken from our prison meals. Sometimes several prisoners will contribute various food items and one person will make the “meal” that is then shared around. The concoction is called different names depending what prison system you’re in. Here in Oregon it’s called a “spread.”
Well, on January 31st, I “put in” with Mr. Highjinks to make a spread, contributing items left over from our special Christmas commissary purchase along with some ingredients from the meal trays. Turns out Mr. Highjinks decided to spike the spread with one of his pill concoctions that has him bouncing off the walls for days at a time. To him it was all in fun.
I didn’t consume my entire portion of the spread until Saturday, February 2nd, and that’s when and how things went south. The result was a total loss of impulse control, and an odd compulsion toward self-annihilation. In short, I lost my mind.
Outta My Head
First I got into a fracas with the goon squad (about seven guards dressed out in full body armor with gas, taser and a large plexiglass shield). Then I overdosed on dozens of my own prescription anti-inflammatory medications. Followed by another clash with the goon squad, as I was being prepared to be taken to the hospital for the OD. At the hospital – St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, Oregon – no treatment was given, except a staged blood test while I was kept hidden away in an isolated back room. Within a couple of hours of arriving I was dischaarged back to the prison, where that same night (shortly after midnight, Sunday the 3rd), I was placed on a Close Observation Suicide (SCO) watch, inside a suicide monitoring cell where I found a razor blade. Obviously no coincidence.
The next day (Monday the 3rd), still out of my head, I broke the razor into three pieces and swallowed them. This was witnessed by a sergeant and captured on camera. The entire experience played before me like I was standing outside myself watching someone else.
I was again taken to the same hospital, where again no care was given. Although they went through the motions of taking x-rays (which they wouldn’t let me see), the hospital staff, who were pretty blatant about not wanting me there (apparently a skin thing), claimed the films showed definitively that no razors were inside me. By then I was sobering up, and, losing my suicidal compulsion, I contested that they were wrong or outright lying, and should do further investigation. With a bit of attitude the doctor – named Bean – declined and told the guards to be off with me.
To Eat or Not to Eat
Knowing the fatal danger of a punctured intestine I protested to prison medical and security staff upon my return that I still had three razor pieces inside me. They blew me off, citing the hospital report to the contrary. So I declined to eat or drink, expecting that stimulating digestion would cause the razors to move along and slice through my contracting entrails. Meantime I repeatedly requested medical staff to order further x-rays. They refused, indifferent to my protests.
Several admitted my concerns were valid if I actually did have razors inside me, but of course I didn’t, they contended, because the hospital said so. I went six days without food or liquids, and dropped twenty pounds in just as long. I requested intravenous hydration from nursing staff and the doctor – named Garth Gulick – which was also denied. I was told that I was choosing myself not to eat and drink, so they would not intervene.
The New Hippocratic Oath: “Do Nothing”
On the fourth day without food and water, I fell unconscious in the cell, and was taken by gurney to the prison’s medical center. Gulick was called, and simply told them to put me back in the cell. That my severe dehydration was my own fault.
To validate refusing me medical hydration, a nurse named Folkman lyingly documented in my medical file that she witnessed me drinking water on my 5th day without food or liquids. When on the 6th day without food or liquids Gulick assured me he’d watch me dehydrate to death, and he cited Folkman as a witness that I really wasn’t going without liquids (although my tongue was white and “furry,” my lips parched, and my skin scaly), I decided to risk drinking water.
Initially, I kept vomiting the water back up, while suffering extreme stabbing pains in my abdomen. Gradually, the water stayed down. Then later that night I defecated a puddle of blood laced with bile. A nurse Fritz was alerted to the situation and ordered x-rays, taking seriously my protests that I still had razors inside and obviously cutting me. The next day Gulick overruled her order for x-rays.
Meantime, everyday mental health staff attempted to meet with me to try and take me off SCO status. I refused to talk to them in order to remain on SCO status for as long as possible. This way I remained under documented close monitoring in case the razors otherwise caused serious complications. On SCO status I remained in a completely bare cold cell, naked except for sleeveless nylon smock and nothing else but two nylon sheets. I was left to sleep and lie on a bare concrete slab.
Throughout the ordeal I endured constant severe abdominal and kidney pains, and was discharging blood in my urine daily.
Gulick made a game of it all. Being such a fanatic for denying prisoners needed care, every time I saw him he’d play a debating game with me attempting to rationalize how he knew I was faking about the razors and why he would give me no medical care for that, my pain, nor an of my other issues. He accused me of everything from malingering the abdominal and kidney pain (although urine tests repeatedly confirmed blood in my urine), and “tricking” guards into thinking I’d swallowed the razors, to trying to “extort” x-rays just so I could look at myself on film (!?). He ultimately admitted a concern to save the state money by not giving prisoners needed care.
The Uncover Up
During the ordeal several prisoner witnesses sent letters out to my supporters and comrades, only one of which actually made it out – a letter from Cory Freiberg. Cory’s letter succeeded in prompting outside protest and inquiries on my behalf. Apparently officials didn’t expect word to get out — in fact they acted at every turn to prevent it.
Although I’d had consent for release of information on my medical condition and treatments on file for several of the inquirers since February 2012, the prison’s medical staff lied to them for almost a week, claiming they had no such consents on file so they couldn’t discuss my medical situation with anyone who called. In fact the forms on record required them to alert the inquirers when I had to be sent out to the hospital or had any other serious medical problems, but they didn’t.
Each prisoner witness who sent out letters was promptly moved out of the unit with me under some pretext. Meantime my mail was withheld and denied, then ultimately a large amount of it was “confiscated” by an Assistant Superintendent Judy Gilmore, without explanation or justification.
Also, based on a completely fabricated disciplinary report from February 2, 2013, that was later dismissed, I was placed on a completely unrelated status where once off SCO status, I could not possess any mail nor any other property (except legal papers in pending court cases) but for four hours per day.
A Cutting Edge Discovery
After repeated documented complaints of severe abdominal and kidney pain, another nurse ordered x-rays for me. Gulick promptly overruled her, too. Only with mounting outside pressure about my situation and a lawyer Benjamin Haile having arranged a call with me, did Gulick finally allow the x-rays, just to “prove,” he said, that I had no razors in me.
On February 21st the x-rays were filmed and the “independent” radiologist’s report came back confirming that pieces of metal were indeed in my intestinal tract, having passed through my system and settled in my transverse colon.
I didn’t see Gulick again nor find out about the x-ray report until February 28th, at which time he changed his tune. He knew word had gotten out about my actual situation and I was scheduled to speak with Mr. Haile for the second time the next day. So Gulick’s angle then became to try and interpret and “prove” the metal showing on the x-rays was something other than razors. He admitted consulting with other doctors to this end. Another set of x-rays was taken on that day also.
The next day, one of the more candid nurses assured me with the February 21st x-rays showing the razors having passed into my large intestine, they were unlikely to cause serious damage if I ate. I then accepted my first meal in 25 days. The next day I passed my first stool in 26 days, where one of the razor pieces was found and documented by the same nurse. Overall I’d lost 29 pounds since February 4th.
I next saw Gulick on March 5th, where the February 28th x-ray results couldn’t be found and he then claimed belief that the metal showing on the February 21st x-rays were staples, or something I’d swallowed since my February 4th hospital visit. Yet another theory he abandoned when I pointed out that I was on a closely monitored SCO status since returning from the hospital.
He finally admitted an initial concern to protect the hospital from liability, and now himself. Once again it came down to placing monetary interests before human life and professional integrity.
On March 8th the nurse who confirmed the razor in my stool on March 2nd searched for, found and showed me the report for the February 28th x-rays, and it showed at least two pieces of metal in my lower large intestine, one of which she said matched exactly the measurements and dimensions of the razor piece I passed and she collected on March 2nd. She said Gulick had not yet seen the report, and I haven’t seen Gulick again since.
This particular nurse went on to express relief that the razors had passed through my system without any apparent serious injury in light of Gulick’s and others’ persistence in doing nothing to help me. She compared the “miracle” to one she said she’d experienced when her young daughter swallowed an open safety pin and it passed through her without injury.
From all this I recognized that from the hospital to the prison staff, a series of events played out that showed at very least gross neglect, and at worst a consistent and shared intent to see me die (no surprise to me by the way). However foolish my actions that created the predicament, their responses can’t be justified. Now granted, I’m not exactly loved by prison officials so they’ve some strong motives to see me out of the way once and for all. But the outright indifference and intransigence of these medical “professionals” and the doctor’s admitting to prioritize penny-pinching over needed care even in life-threatening cases, demands that everyone who cares about human life, and anyone with loved ones behind these walls raise a sustained hue and cry, and mobilize resistance and awareness concerning medical “professionals” relating to us with such overtly fascistic mentalities. Otherwise many loved ones will return to homes and others’ lives with all manner of medical disorders (even communicable ones) and expenses they didn’t leave with. As for others, we should remember that the evil people do is in knowing of abuse and turning a blind eye.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!
Police are taking lessons from the British occupation of Northern Ireland, and applying them to poor communities in Southern Ontario. This is the chilling conclusion of BASICS Kitchener-Waterloo’s research into the new PAVIS (Provincial Anti-Violence Strategy) model being deployed in Kitchener.
PAVIS supposedly focuses on crime prevention and building relationships with youth and mobilizing communities, however, it is actually about using counter-insurgency tactics to police communities in Canada.
In November, Kitchener community activist Julian Ichim attended a conference held by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)—a body which is supposed to investigate complaints about police. Yet, the main purpose of the meeting was for OIPRD to promote a community policing model based on counter-insurgency techniques. Expert speaker, Dr. Webb, claimed that this model of policing is effective in Northern Ireland.
At a conference that was supposed to ‘consult’ with the community, Ichim says “Half the delegates walked out in disgust at their voices being silenced.”
The OIPRD is an allegedly independent body from the police force. But the board doesn’t seem to have much independence: “It’s funded by the government, and one out of every two people who works there is an ex-cop,” Ichim said.
Kitchener’s PAVIS is basically the same as Toronto’s Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS). This is a model of intensive police repression on targetted poor and racialized communities which has been used for the past few years in Toronto. It also resembles the model of counter-insurgency policing that Dr. Webb was referring to at the OIPRD conference.
Last year, a Toronto a police superintendent attended a Jane and Finch Crisis Support Network meeting to intimidate the community. The group’s purpose is to discuss police brutality and safety in Jane and Finch—a working-class area in Toronto and designated TAVIS area. At the meeting, the police officer verbally attacked the group’s chair, Sabrina ‘Butterfly’ Gopaul, and many community members were forced to leave the meeting visibly upset.
Similar encounters have started to occur during meetings on police brutality in Kitchener. Dianne, an activist, recounted: “We had a call-out for people to go to the Queen Street Commons [generally a safe haven for organisers] for people to talk about their experience with police brutality. The Police came right in, tried to chat people up, and took our fliers.”
Kitchener-Waterloo is not taking PAVIS laying down: fighting back is the priority for this year’s annual day against police brutality.
Joey, a coordinator of the March Against Police Brutality, said, “Our focus this year is to release a People’s Report in response to the OIPRD report.”
The people’s report will be a consultation not run by OIPRD police sympathizers. The community is also planning a protest on March 15—the 16th annual International Day Against Police Brutality.
“Our main mission is to raise awareness of how much police brutality there is and how very little is done about it,” Dianne, one of the coordinators said.
At last year’s anti-police brutality demonstration in Kitchener, police used horses to push the crowd, including young children, off the public road.
Kitchener-Waterloo’s 3rd annual March Against Police Brutality will take place on March 15, 5pm at City Hall. All are welcome.
by Laura Lepper
In March and July 2013, two Six Nations women Francine “Flower” Doxtator and Theresa “Toad” Jamieson will be dragged through the Canadian courts once again for their defense of their nations’ lands. These women, along with other Six Nations land defenders, have consistently maintained that the Canadian courts do not have jurisdiction over Haudenosaunee peoples.
As these Haudenosaunee land defenders face the courts, they assert that the courts violates both the Two Row Wampum treaty and the rightful law – the Great Law of Peace – of the stolen land on which the courthouse stands. Toad stressed on December 12th, 2012 to the courts: “I don’t accept your law…See this Two Row wampum flag? There’s supposed to be separate ruling.”
The charges against Flower and Toad stem from the provocations of anti-Native rights activist Gary McHale and the Ontario Provincial Police on the reclaimed land of Kanonhstaton located just outside of Caledonia, Ontario. Kanonhstaton means “the protected place” in Kanienkehaka, the Mohawk nation’s language.
In 2006, Haudenosaunee people of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory reclaimed land in “dispute” for more than 150 years in order to stop development of a Caledonia subdivision on stolen land.
In reaction to the reclamation, Gary McHale and his followers, under the name of “Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality” (CANACE) set about a political movement against “native lawlessness,” “land claim terrorism,” and “race-based policing.” CANACE played a leading role in trying to establish a “Caledonia Militia” to stop land defenders.
Throughout the past year, several land defenders have faced charges and legal restrictions that have kept them from the reclaimed land of Kanonhstaton. Several of these charges have come as a result of provocations stemming from McHale’s incursion into Kanonhstaton. On February 18th, 2012, escorted by OPP officers, McHale instigated conflict by marching towards the house on the reclaimed land; and on July 7th, McHale tried to grab onto land defender Sean Toulouse to place him under “citizen’s arrest.” As Toulouse pulled back, McHale called for the OPP to charge Toulouse with assault, which the OPP did. This whole act can be seen on a YouTube video posted by McHale’s organization.
Throughout September 2012, McHale and his followers repeated this charade in order to criminalize more land defenders. Gary McHale was recently nominated by the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation and awarded a Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
As part of a campaign to resist the racist criminalization of land defenders and the fight for Indigenous land rights and sovereignty as asserted by the Two Row Wampum, the CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group (Toronto), the Two Row Society (Toronto), Friends of Kanonhstaton (Niagara) and Grand River Indigenous Solidarity (Kitchener-Waterloo) organize a strong supportive presence each time that Flower and Toad face the courts.
Criminalizing land defenders, disobeying treaties and violating Indigenous land rights is essential to the vested interests of the Canadian state to remove all obstacles to the exploitation of Mother Earth and her people. McHale’s actions attempt to further pave the way towards this goal.
Uniting our struggles in defense of Indigenous land rights and the Two Row treaty builds powerful resistance to this goal of capitalist exploitation. Building a supportive force at each court date is one part of the relationship building, education and actions of resistance necessary to build the movement.
Join us for a rally, round dance and court support for Flower on March 19th at the Cayuga courthouse, and later in July 2013 for Toad.
About the Author: Laura Lepper is a non-Indigenous member of the Two Row Society, based on Haudenosaunee territory in Brantford, Ontario.
This is an update about Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, a prisoner activist and intellectual who is currently in a dire situation in Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon.
As was reported last week, Rashid has been in the midst of a health crisis for almost a month now, which has included periods of severe disorientation. For a time he was refusing to eat or drink; as far as our most recent information if concerned, he is currently accepting liquids but still not eating.
Rashid has spent most of his adult life in prison, and almost all of that time has been spent in various isolation units. This is a direct consequence of his actively resisting abuse from prison guards and their lackeys in the 1990s, and to his continued political writing and exposing conditions in America’s carceral nightmare ever since. A New Afrikan Communist and the founder and Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter, Rashid is also a longtime mentor to several activists (and, through his writings, other prisoners) in Virginia, and in recent years has gained national attention as the result of the publication of his book Defying the Tomb, and the use of his artwork in numerous progressive publications. Most notably, Rashid is the artist who designed the drawing used as an emblem during the historic 2011 California prisoners’ hunger strikes, in which over 12,000 participated.
Rashid is a Virginia State prisoner, yet in 2012 the situation at Red Onion State Prison (where he had been held in solitary for years) escalated, with certain guards singling him out for abuse. In one harrowing incident, he was beaten while in handcuffs, which left him with a dislocated shoulder several of his dreadlocks torn out from the roots (as reported here). This attack came shortly after he wrote an article exposing a pain-compliance technique used at Red Onion which involved twisting prisoners’ fingers back, leading in some cases to broken bones. Subsequent to this assault, he was transferred to Wallens Ridge prison where he was informed by guards that he “would not leave the prison walking” (as reported here).
It was following exposure of this set-up, and numerous phone calls and petitions from outside supporters, that Rashid was transferred across the country, to Oregon. This transfer was possible due to an American practice of some States agreeing to imprison people from other States, essentially renting out their prison cells for one another. Upon his arrival in Oregon, Rashid was placed in general population – the first time in almost twenty years that he had not been in solitary confinement. Nevertheless, after just a few months, his work educating other prisoners in revolutionary theory and the principles of solidarity led to his being transferred to Snake River’s Intensive Management Unit, a prison within a prison on the border with Idaho in Oregon’s remote south-east corner.
Outside supporters do not know the precise details that led to Rashid’s current health crisis, periods of disorientation, and refusal to eat food. However, we have no doubts about the general circumstances that led to this situation. Rashid is one of roughly one hundred thousand prisoners in the United States being held in isolation, or solitary confinement. He is also one of a much smaller number who has spent decades of his life in such conditions. This despite the fact that studies have shown that “There is not a single published study of solitary or supermax-like confinement in which nonvoluntary confinement lasting for longer than 10 days, where participants were unable to terminate their isolation at will, that failed to result in negative psychological effects. The damaging effects ranged in severity and included such clinically significant symptoms as hypertension, uncontrollable anger, hallucinations, emotional breakdowns, chronic depression, and suicidal thoughts and behavior.” (Craig Haney, University of California at Santa Cruz)
In the words of Chad Landrum, a communist prisoner in California’s notorious Pelican Bay SHU:
Social intercourse with others is a necessity to feed, clothe, shelter, and procreate, in order to perpetuate our species. Seeking out the company of others is a genetic drive programmed within our DNA, and in the process of social intercourse, our personalities as distinct individuals is shaped and molded, giving us our identities. To socially isolate and deprive us of social contact is to dehumanize us and destroy our identity as distinct personalities. A life of both social isolation and sensory deprivation is an unnatural state of existence artificially imposed upon a essentially social animal. Such conditions of social isolation amounts to nothing less that “social-extermination”—keeping us alive biologically as living, breathing, empty vessels, devoid of all social content—a socially engineered lobotomy. (Chad Landrum, “The Final Hour”)
Solitary confinement or isolation torture may seem like some barbaric custom imposed out of ignorance or sadism. However, the fact of the matter is that this form of confinement was developed by a multidisciplinary effort of psychologists, neurologists, penal authorities and counterinsurgency experts, all with the goal of developing a form of “clean torture” (i.e. one that does not leave physical marks), the ultimate aim being to break political prisoners and others with beliefs that run contrary to the established order of things. Solitary confinement cannot be understood without appreciating this ultimate goal. In Europe research into isolation torture was pioneered in experiments on political prisoners from groups like the IRA and the Red Army Faction. In the United States, solitary confinement was identified as an important aspect of the government’s behavior modification program targeting prison rebels, and most especially Black prisoners, as early as the 1960s. In 1990, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Anthony X. Bradshaw, Malik Dinguswa, Terry D. Long, Mark Cook, Adolfo Matos and James Haskins authored a study entitled “A Scientific Form of Genocide” which continues to provide one of the best available political analyses of penal counterinsurgency in the United States. As they noted, in the 1960s and 70s,
the government became concerned about group control inside the prisons, and to address this concern the government resorted to the use of psychological warfare. Consequently, prisoners of strong religious and cultural beliefs who had organized prisoners to resist and those prisoners who put up independent resistance were singled out and met with extreme oppression as the targets of experimental behavior modification.
We submit that Black people were in fact the first experimental targets of group behavior modification. Furthermore, current data and statistics on the prison situation support our contention that Black people inside the state and federal prisons today remain the prime targets of the government’s program.
The authors of this study exposed the fact that as early as 1961,
a social scientist named Dr. Edward Schein presented his ideas on brainwashing at a meeting held in Washington, DC, that was convened by James V. Bennett, then director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Systems, and was attended by numerous social scientists and prison wardens. Dr. Schein suggested to the wardens that brainwashing techniques were natural for use in their institutions. In his address on the topic “Man Against Man,” he explained that in order to produce marked changes of behavior and/or attitude it is necessary to weaken, undermine, or remove the supports of old patterns of behavior and old attitudes. “Because most of these supports are the face-to-face confirmation of present behavior and attitudes, which are provided by those with whom close emotional ties exist.” This can be done by either “removing the individual physically and preventing any communication with those whom he cares about, or by proving to him that those whom he respects are not worthy of it, and indeed should be actively mistrusted.”
Dr. Schein then provided the group with a list of specific examples as to how to break prisoners, including physically removing them to isolated areas, segregating natural leaders, systematic withholding of mail, undermining emotional support, preventing prisoners from writing mail, and several other similar recommendations. While it can be assumed that Schein’s brainwashing prescription has been modified and perfected over the past fifty years, anyone who takes the time to learn about conditions in America’s isolation wings and supermax units will recognize that the basic approach remains the same.
Prisoners like Rashid, who have shown a willingness not only to resist but also to reach out to other prisoners and develop strategies against their ongoing oppression, are the prime targets of such behavior modification regimes. To once again quote A Scientific Form of Genocide:
The penal system is designed to break minds, to create warped and aberrated personalities, and isolation and sensory deprivation play a most singular and unique role in this.
In general, all prisoners are targeted. Even the staff themselves become victimized by the same system they blindly seek to uphold. You cannot dehumanize people without yourself becoming dehumanized in the process. Yes, all prisoners are targeted, and the harshness of their treatment varies only in degree with the most severe treatment being meted out to those with some political consciousness or to those who are in prison for political offenses. They concentrate extra hard on the political prisoner because the political prisoner has the clearest understanding about the true nature of things, about the exploitative relationships that prevail. Accordingly, they concentrate extra hard on the political prisoner because she or he has the greatest potential for awakening and organizing the rest of the prisoners.
So, isolation and sensory deprivation have always played a unique role in the government’s perennial war on the political prisoner. Through isolation and sensory deprivation, through being confined within a limited space, through the denial of privacy, lack of natural light and fresh air, through the lack of intellectual stimulation, lack of comradeship, through the lack of undisturbed sleep, lack of proper health care, lack of educational and recreational outlets—the lack of these things that contribute to fueling life reduces one to an existence of lifelessness.
This is war. This is a war of attrition and it is designed to reduce prisoners to a state of submission essential for their ideological conversion. That failing, the next option, in deadly sequence, is to reduce the prisoners to a state of psychological incompetence sufficient to neutralize them as efficient, selfdirecting antagonists. That failing, the only option left is to destroy the prisoners, preferably by making them desperate enough to destroy themselves.
The unit where Rashid is being held officially embraces its vocation within the kind of behavior modification/brainwashing program described above. According to an April 17th, 2003 memo, the Snake River Intensive Management Unit “by design is not long-term housing. IMU houses inmates to provide programming toward behavior modification and to prepare them for return to general population.” However, the human rights group Solitary Watch has received the housing history of one IMU inmate who spent 12 years in isolation before being sent to an out-of-state supermax unit. In other words, Rashid faces the equally dehumanizing alternatives of a “behavior modification” program to break him, or else years or decades under conditions designed to produce psychological distress. Such a faustian choice is not a bureaucratic accident or the result of the prison officials’ ignorance, it is the logical and scientifically developed conclusion to Schein’s brainwashing proposals adopted by the Federal BOP in the 1960s.
As such, to deny Oregon and Virginia DOC’s direct responsibility for Rashid’s condition is tantamount to the prison administrators throwing someone into a swimming pool with hungry sharks, and then claiming that it’s the sharks and not them who are responsible for what happens next.
Snake River Correctional Institute is a full day’s drive away from Portland, and Rashid has no established base of supporters in Oregon. When the alert went out last week about his situation, there was a wave of support, in the form of phone calls to the prison and to Oregon DOC officials. This was very useful, and helped to make it clear to the prisoncrats that people are watching, and their actions against Rashid cannot be carried out completely in secret. A lawyer managed to speak to Rashid for over an hour on February 23rd, and ascertained that he is aware of the support and appreciated it, and that his chief problem at the moment is that he does not have easy access to his mail or to his personal belongings, including his books.
According to an Oregon DOC spokesperson, Rashid is only given access to his mail for a few hours each evening as part of a program of “incentivizing to improve behavior” – when asked if this meant that good behavior would be rewarded with more access to his mail and “bad” behavior with more restrictions on it – the answer was “exactly”. So even according to Oregon DOC’s own spokespeople, limiting access to mail is being used as a form of punishment.
The same Oregon DOC spokesperson described the Snake River Intensive Management Unit where Rashid is being held as a place with “different depths of programming”, as “behavior based” and all about (as above) “incentivizing to improve behavior”.
Behavior modification amounts to an assault on a person’s psychological integrity, as their environment and their conditions of life are manipulated in order to mould them into submission. As Rashid himself has described what it is like to me targeted for this kind of brainwashing:
[The IMU is] a housing status that lasts from seven months to indefinitely, during which a prisoner must pass through four levels – which requires that he reveal his every thought to his torturers.
Those housed in IMU who receive rules infractions are automatically placed on level one for a month, which is even more restrictive and extreme in sensory deprivation than DSU housing. And for every infraction he then receives, his level one assignment is extended. Such conditions often put prisoners struggling to maintain their sanity in a catch-22, where coping prompts resisting their torturing confinement, and that very resistance prompts infractions which intensify and prolong that confinement. (“Oregon Prisoners Driven to Suicide by Torture in Solitary Confinement Units”)
Perversely, this kind of abuse is rationalized by Oregon DOC’s spokesperson as a way to minimize the effects of isolation torture. As was explained in a recent phone call to a supporter, “there’s a lot of discussion in Oregon and nationally about the use of isolation or solitary or whatever one wants to call it” and as a result Oregon DOC “made significant changes to our philosophy; we try to limit the use because we know it can have impacts”. The idea being that the IMU will mould prisoners into compliance, and then they won’t have to be kept in isolation!
Already in November, Rashid wrote a report on conditions at the Snake River IMU, in which he related how prisoners were regularly driven to self-destructive behavior as a result of the conditions of severe isolation, bordering on sensory deprivation, that they are forced to suffer. “In 22 years of imprisonment, I have never seen such a consistently high and continuous series of suicide cases,” he wrote.
(Rashid’s report on the Oregon IMU is well worth reading, and provides a much more detailed and specific information than the present article can. It is available on Rashid’s website at rashidmod.com)
Rashid’s recent period of intense distress is clearly a result of the conditions he is being subjected to. In the immediate short term we need to demand that he be transferred out of the IMU and that he be given access to his personal property and mail. Beyond that, we need to demand that units like the IMU be closed down, permanently.
In the meantime, one of the best things people can do is to write to Rashid. Even if you have never written to him before, or if he does not know you and you don’t know what to say, a simple letter or postcard expressing your solidarity and concern for his well-being may be of help. If he is able to receive his mail, such support will constitute a crack in the wall of isolation they have erected around him – and even if they keep his mail from him, they will be aware of the support Rashid enjoys and the attention being paid to his case, and this will hopefully constitute a deterrent to any further abuse.
Rashid can be reached at this address:
Kevin Johnson #19370490
777 Stanton Blvd.
Ontario, OR 97914
Always put a full name (not initials) on the return address; otherwise your letter may be rejected. Similarly, do not write anything you would not want the prisoncrats to see, as it is assumed that all mail is read by guards as a matter of course.
by Makaya Kelday
New York –It was an especially frigid February afternoon in lower Manhattan, as our crowd huddled outside the Cinema Village theatre awaiting our entrance to see the new documentary, Long Distance Revolutionary, about Amerika’s most famous Political Prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The film, directed by Stephen Vittoria and produced by Prison Radio director Noelle Hanrahan, opened the night before to a sold out showing. This was the
first run of a tour that includes L.A., Seattle, Calgary, New Orleans, Miami, and your city if you request it.
Though the seats were full people continued to file into the theatre, leaving only a small area in the back for standing room that was soon taken up by the petite frame but enormous spirit of Pam Africa, along with her entourage. It was a family affair indeed, as Ramona Africa entered behind her, along with some children of the MOVE family. It’s only fitting that after all the support Mumia has given the MOVE family throughout the continued incarceration of nine family members, and the bombing of their Philadelphia home in 1985, that they would continue to support him, not only by heading up the International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal committee, but also attending, coordinating and/or speaking at all events held on his behalf (see article from 2008 by BASICS with Ramona Africa).
The lights dimmed on the crowded theatre and our conversational murmurs turned into boos and laughs, and one chant of “Free Palestine!” as the big screen before us ran a Starbucks ad, which was then followed by a Target commercial that garnered a similar crowd reaction. Ironic ads for an event such as this one, but they somehow served to unite the audience, as we turned to our neighbors to share our laughs and/or disgusts, and reminded us that we are all here for the one common, broader cause of justice, and more specifically, to support Brother Mumia.
Long Distance Revolutionary distinguishes itself from previous documentaries about Mumia, In Prison My Whole Life, and A Case for Reasonable Doubt because it doesn’t focus at all on Mumia’s legal case, and instead follows his career as a journalist. From his teenage years as the Minister of Information for the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party, to his broadcasts at Temple University, to a journalism career that includes work for NPR, the Associated Press, a presidency at the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, and ultimately from behind bars, from where he has written seven books and thousands of commentaries. The film features the likes of Angela Davis, Cornell West, Dick Gregory, Alice Walker, M1, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and many other speakers who share their thoughts on Mumia’s work, as well as a group of young artists, writers, actors, and activists who recite excerpts of some of Mumia’s pieces throughout the film. Director Stephen Vittoria uses no frills or fancy effects, and no convenient editing, which allows Mumia’s poignant and thoughtful words to speak for themselves.
Rather than continue to allow their incarcerations to define them, we are made to remember that our political prisoners were accomplished men and women in all different areas of life before they got to where they are today. Like Mutulu Shakur who is a celebrated doctor of acupuncture, and as Sundiata Acoli is a gifted mathematician, Mumia is a brilliant journalist whose work has rendered him exiled on Amerikan soil. And after watching Long Distance Revolutionary, though it does not go into his case details whatsoever, it is clear that Mumia’s choice of weapon – his words – is really what the system sought to kill.
But after 30 years on death row (last spring Mumia was moved to general population) the system has still failed to silence him. We hear his voice on rap records, see his name on French streets that have been named after him, and find his image on t-shirts worn by his supporters that claim residencies from Canada to Japan to Germany to South Africa.
Long Distance Revolutionary is just in time to parallel the new “Free Mumia in 4” campaign, and will become an important piece of modern revolutionary history, documenting one of our heroes of the struggle, a revolutionary writer by the name of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
For more info go to www.mumia-themovie.com.
Light refreshments will be provided
ASL and child care will be available. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org 48 hours before the event if you require these services.
PLEASE NOTE: there are two series of steps into the building. A ramp system is available. Washrooms are in the basement down a flight of stairs
Hosted by the Law Union of Ontario’s Prison Justice Committe
Help promote the event: Omnibus Crime Bill Event Poster in PDF
by Louisa Worrell
Wednesday, November 14th at about 6pm in front of Concordia University, over 100 people gathered in protest of the intense air strike of the Gaza strip by the Israeli military. This scale of attack has not been seen in the Occupied Territories since Operation Cast Lead in 2008 with its 1,300 dead, and 53,00 injured.
The Montreal protest had been called hours earlier by the Concordia chapter of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). Police vehicles blocked off the road and the entire block ahead of the protest. This effectively cut off the large group from the bystanders and people in their cars. This tactic of seperating and isolating protests and their message from the general population was also used during the Tamil occupation Rideau street in Ottawa during the 2009 attacks of the Sri Lanken government on the Tamil population.
The bi-lingual group began marching through Montreal’s downtown core, chanting «Israel Terroriste! Harper, complice! », «From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free! » and other chants in Arabic. The cold air did not deter the group, whose voices echoed down St. Catherines’ business district, bouncing off the walls of the multinational corporation Chapters-Indigo, a company that actively participates in funding and promoting the Apartheid State of Israel.
Once arrived at the Square, a woman from SPHR spoke about the importance of standing up to this military operation and how the head of Hamas’ military branch, Ahmed Jabari, was killed along with 26 other people (primarily civilians). Tadamon!, a Montreal based group that organizes in solidarity with Palestinians, has called for a larger demonstration on Sunday. On Thursday, the Human Sciences Student Association at UQAM (AFESH-UQAM) voted unanimously in a general assembly to support this call.
From the May 1st Movement
20 years ago, a justified rage spilled out into downtown streets.
Shortly after the outrageous injustice of the acquittal of the Los Angeles Police officers who were videotaped beating Rodney King prompted a week-long uprising in LA, outraged people in Toronto responded to the call of the Black Action Defense Committee to gather in front of the US consulate. That same week a white, plain clothed police officer shot and killed 22 year old Raymond Constantine Lawrence, the 14th black man shot by the Toronto police Service since 1978. The Yonge Street Uprising forced Queens Park to acknowledge the widespread racism in government policies and institutions, leading to some reforms.
20 years later, we still see the same racism, poverty and oppression in our City that gave way to the Yonge Street Uprising. These conditions feed an exploitative system that keeps communities and people poor, circumstances that lead to youth harming themselves and others in their own community.
Following the shootings in the Eaton Centre and in Scarborough, Toronto this past summer, politicians have opportunistically used the tragedies that claimed 4 young lives to further their own attacks on working people. Mayor Rob Ford didn’t hesitate to call for more police on the streets, despite the fact that the ratio of police to residents is at its highest in 31 years and costs have doubled in the last decade. Across Canada, there are 69,299 officers at a cost of $12 billion in salaries.
What’s more, he and other Councillors such as Giorgio Mammoliti (who has actively tried to remove basketball nets from his Ward and famously called for the Armed Forces to be brought in to fight ‘gangs’) almost immediately called for an end to funding of ‘Hug-a-thug’ programs, presumably directed at social, recreational, and arts programs for youth. Paradoxically and shamelessly, Ford uses the youth from the football team he coaches to deflect from the mounting evidence of his own incompetence and corruption.
Premier McGuinty plays along with Ford and his buddies in Ottawa who on top of wanting more police are also working to build huge prisons and change criminal laws to send more people to jail and for longer periods.
Unfortunately, there are very few voices that have publicly called the response from Government to the shootings this summer for what it is – an opportunistic alignment with the ongoing coordinated attack on working class people and our neighbourhoods.
Everyday the news tells us about job cuts, wage freezes, and government cutbacks while at the same time reporting record profits for banks and large companies. The lesson from 1992 is that injustice continues until people rise up to challenge them and those responsible.
The May 1st Movement, a coalition of community and labour organizations and activists rejects the scapegoating of working class youth and racialized communities which has been used as a pretext to justify the building of prisons coupled with the reduction of social and cultural programs while increasing police presence in low-income neighbourhoods.
Since Toronto Mayor Rob Ford took office, communities have organized to resist his agenda of cuts to social services, layoffs of public sector workers, and attacks on the poorest people in this city. We support and are encouraged by the rising tide of people in Toronto, including youth, artists and social workers who are beginning to realize that we cannot stay silent while the attacks mount on our neighbourhoods as well as the projects and initiatives that support our people.
We must continue to resist and organize to fight back against austerity policies and those who are pushing them.
To learn more about the May 1st Movement, visit www.may-1.org
To learn more about the “War on Communities” component of the “Right to Exist, Right to Resist” conference, visit www.ilps-canada.ca
by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan
On July 17th 2012, just hours after the mass shooting at a Scarborough block party that left 23 wounded and two dead, Mayor Rob Ford declared:
“Some people have suggested there is a gang war brewing. I don’t know if that’s true. But, I do know it’s time for us to declare war on these violent gangs. …We must use every legal means to make life for these thugs miserable, to put them behind bars, or to run them out of town. We will not rest until being a gang member is a miserable, undesirable life.”
Indeed there were many upset faces, repeated condolences and angry words from officials and politicians after the Danzig tragedy. The usual bad cop/good cop routine was acted out: the Mayor had his ridiculed outburst about using “immigration laws” to exile anyone with gun charges from the city, and later blubbered on about useless “Hug-a-Thug programs”; the Premier chided the statement as “short-sighted” and pleaded for a balanced and reflective approach; ‘progressive’ politicians, like Councillor Adam Vaughan, got emotional: “If…all they want to talk about is jail, they can go to hell!”
After this media charade was over, both the stick and carrot were ready for action and unanimous approval. Within a week Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, Premier McGuinty and Mayor Ford were chuckling over a table passing a $12.5 million boost to aggressive policing programs in Ontario (the stick). A month later the same provincial government unveiled a $20 million plan for youth jobs and community programs (the carrot). Both strategies serve the same wicked agenda – exploiting blood and fear to ramp up the invasion, occupation and containment of poor and oppressed communities.
Self-destruction festers in every hood in the city, consuming African (West Indian, West African and Somali) men as both the primary victims and perpetrators. Murders this year included two people close to BASICS members past and present: 22 year-old Nixon Nirmalendran, the second target in the Eaton’s Centre shooting; and a month later 25 year-old Abdulle Elmi. It’s clear that this needs to be called out and confronted, but it’s no mistake that the official analysis fails to trace its origin.
This level of violence emerged in the early 90’s after Toronto’s ghettos were flooded with drugs and guns over the preceding years. This coordinated process began in the U.S. in a campaign to neutralize the revolutionary Black Power movement, particularly the Black Panther Party; and while those radical forces were sparse in Canada, the potential for social upheaval was still present. That lethal flood was followed by the disappearance of manufacturing jobs with the signing of the NAFTA trade agreement in 1992, and then by the systematic stripping of social assistance and programs under Mike Harris (Premier of Ontario 1995-2002). Those cuts to welfare and other benefits have been maintained by every provincial government and political party since, and because of inflation have actually been intensified.
Blatantly white supremacist policies like the Safe Schools Act deliberately fed the violence by expelling black students, pushing them into illegal means of survival, and thereby into sharper confrontation with each other. During the eventual Ontario Human Rights lawsuit it was estimated 80% of expelled students were non-white; the majority of those being black males. This agenda continues to advance with the annual increases to the Toronto Police Service’s budget (currently over $1 billion/year), and mass incarceration with the March 2012 passing of Harper’s Bill C-10.
So the calls of “Stop the Violence” from the same political and social forces that created the conditions in the first place couldn’t be more perverse. On the ground police officers not only do nothing to prevent conflicts from arising, but often deliberately instigate tensions between youth. The hypocrisy can be seen in public discourse where the only time crime becomes an issue is when it spills over into the commercial centers of the city, or when certain bodies become targets: a white teenager on Boxing Day, a 14-year old, or University graduate at a BBQ versus the dehumanized young men “known to police”. This is not to say the system as a whole really holds any more value for the former lives; but that their deaths allow for the whipping up of public hysteria to push through long-desired pieces of legislation and policies that people would otherwise meet with skepticism.
After Jane Creba’s death in 2005 TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy) introduced new levels of occupation and surveillance to the poorest neighbourhoods in the city- and has since been responsible for 4 massive paramilitary raids and 22,000 arrests. On July 24th TAVIS got approved for indefinite provincial funding ($5 million/year), along with $7.5 mil to PAVIS (Provincial Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy), its now permanent counterpart across Ontario. Also in Danzig’s aftermath the Harper regime wasted no time in relating and promoting their proposed piece of legislation that would see any non-citizen (landed, refugee, permanent resident etc.) deported automatically after any sentence over 6 months. As for Bill C-10 – which ends pardons, introduces mandatory minimums and eliminates conditional sentences for a number of charges – we have yet to see the real impact in part because many judges are refusing to implement it. Now the Justice Minister and other are demanding they be forced to do so.
Along with pigs and prisons there’s the carrot being dangled in front of us: a multimillion dollar social service industry. The same 2005 “Year of the Gun” saw the designation of 13 priority neighbourhoods and the injection of millions through such boards as the Youth Challenge Fund. This was parallel to police expansion that saw TAVIS deployed in the same neighbourhoods. In total $100 million has been pumped into these areas over the past six years, and despite many important projects making use of the flow, most money never reached the ground and was instead siphoned off into bureaucratic structures, poverty pimps, and spaces inaccessible to actual communities. This government-NGO complex in fact serves as another form of control: preventing independent mobilization and self-determination, reinforcing dependency on the system and illusions of its necessity and generosity. Even the limited community power created by genuine peoples’ initiatives is destabilized as successful projects get funded one year and cut the next. Any substantial discussion of violence perpetrated by the system is censored, and sponsored organizations and individuals are often forced to work directly with cops and other crooked apparatuses, like the social housing authority, Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC). Much of McGuinty’s Youth Action Plan goes directly towards this – the ‘Youth-in-Policing Initiative’ for example, or the $500,000 ‘Safer and Vital Communities Program’ where applicants “must partner with the police.”
Horizontal violence (violence amongst the people) will only be resolved when we have real democratic control over our communities; when neighbourhoods have enough organization to solve internal strife and defend their common interests against vertical violence coming down from the state. This does not mean we stop getting every dollar, space and opportunity we can grab to advance the immediate needs of our people, including using the social service sector for employment as many mass leaders have done. But it does mean moving towards the consolidation of institutions that remain accountable only to the people and strive for self-sufficiency.
When Rob Ford declares a war on gangs he does not mean a war on the Hell’s Angels, the Mob or any of the high level syndicates often allowed to operate as extensions of the system – sometimes with the collaboration of elements of the state. He means a war on the racialized bodies at the very bottom of the drug trade. He means a furthering of the attack on poor neighbourhoods: heightened levels of harassment, more sweeps, new laws and packed jails. And not because they oppose smoking, dealing, robbing or shooting when the victims are almost always in the same conditions and communities; but due to the connotation of these behaviours: disregard for the law, and more significantly, the danger of that armed force being redirected at them. And for those not connected to these areas, the G20 and Quebec Student Strike have shown that the methods of physical repression and containment usually reserved for the hood will be extended to any rebellious section of the population.
As poor, working, and progressive people we have a collective interest in recognizing and resisting this physical, economic and social attack. If this is war they are the only side fighting. It’s about time we responded.